Shady Mexican Dude Named Slim Now the Richest Man in the World: A Primer
To the left, Bill Gates. The latest Forbes list of The Richest People in the Universe has arrived, and showed everyone just how Micro and Soft the World's Richest First Loser, Bill Gates, really is. Pussy. He'll be ceding his position to telecom billionaire Carlos Slim Helú, who you might recognize as the shady pawn broker juicing the New York Times for cash. Let's meet him!
The reason Slim is important to you, me, and lots of other people -- besides the fact the he could literally buy and sell us a few times over -- is, in short: He's built out plenty of monopolies, which build out power. Some of the companies Slim's done this with are media companies. Media companies control news, and if you're feeling sinister: News can be used to control media owners' interests. These interests are mostly concerned with amassing more power and wealth. And if you've ever seen a James Bond movie, that kind of thing is pretty fucking scary.
One of these media interests is the New York Times, who he purchased a 6.4% stake in two years ago, and then gave a $250M loan to last year. The money cost about as much as the loan. The loan also prohibited the Times from incurring any more debt, which puts pressure on the Times to keep costs -- like its reporter budget -- low. Fewer reporters mean less reporters to report on Slim's Shady Shenanigans, which we'll get to in a second. The deal also gave Slim a chance to buy more than 10 percent of the New York Times stock at a pretty decent price. Everyone's ready to freak out when he does, as evidenced by a routine SEC filing that people mistook for that purchase, that made everyone freak out. There are also constant rumors that he's going to buy the place, though Slim's said otherwise.
What's the press think of Carlos Slim? Take a wild guess. Time called him an "investigative reporter's dream" last January. Back in 2007, the Wall Street Journal noted in a a thorough assessment of Slim's riches that "Mexico's Carlos Slim makes his billions the old-fashioned way: monopolies." That was in the headline. Further down, after they note that Slim has "lost count" of the various companies he owns, this:
Mr. Slim has accumulated so much power that he is considered untouchable in his native land, a force as great as the state itself.
And the guy plays with his elbows out. There's the time JP Morgan tried to sell Slim a loan on a pretty old client of theirs. Routine business. But the client happened to be a competing telecommunications company directly in Slim's crosshairs, and the deal JP Morgan tried to package would have forced that company to reveal their trade secrets to Slim. Which is shady. A U.S. federal judge thought so, too, and called out JP Morgan as having "acted 'in bad faith' " on Slim's behalf, barring them from participating further in those shenanigans.
Even shadier is that the New York Times didn't report on this huge story, and everyone wondered why. Why would people ask that? Maybe, if you're a little untrusting of the richest person in the world, it's because Slim is basically acting as a loan shark for the New York Times.
Slim certainly doesn't seem interested in helping their journalistic endeavors. In a 2009 New York Times profile, the Times detailed how Slim loves buying media companies but stonewalls media inquires about him. For example, he even declined to be interviewed for that profile, by the New York Times, a company he has a controlling stake in and huge loan out to.
And remember that part of the loan deal that prohibits the Times from incurring any more debt? Well resources for reporters, and the reporters themselves -- especially the kind who spend weeks and money on huge investigations on very powerful people like Carlos Slim -- are expensive. Maybe it'd be a long stretch to think that Slim's enjoying the idea that the Times is going to have to cut corners in places like those, which in turn cuts the number of people trying to figure out what kind of evil shit the richest guy in the world is up to, which makes him more unstoppable. Maybe not!
But that's Carlos Slim, our new Richest Person in the World. Congratulations, to all of us.